Manti Te'o interview highlights
ESPN.com
January 20, 2013
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was talking to her. I was talking to other girls. Just trying to get to know people. I was a college player, just trying to get a feel of who was who.
JEREMY SCHAAP: There was a lot of girls.
MANTI TE'O: There were a lot of girls. Not a lot. A couple.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So she was not at this point. You hear about the car accident. She's in the coma. And the relationship gets deeper why?
MANTI TE'O: All my focus went just to her, in caring for her. Making sure she was OK. Whenever you feel that you're about to lose somebody, you know, reality kicks in, and it's like, OK, I'm going to be here for her, take care of her. And so my focus turned straight to Lennay.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You said it occurred to you never to go see her. Is that because you never saw her, at that time? It never occurred to go see her?
MANTI TE'O: I was in school. I was in the middle of finals. I was going home. And I was going to try … . So the flight home was from Chicago to San Diego; we had a long layover in San Diego. We planned she was going to come pick me and my best friend Robby in San Diego, cruise around. She had to back off. We had a flight from San Diego to L.A. and L.A. to home [Hawaii]. So that was the plan. I wasn't going to go see her. She was going to come see me in San Diego and then the accident happened.
JEREMY SCHAAP: When do you hear that she's out of the coma. Where do you think she is, physically?
MANTI TE'O: In some hospital in L.A. It's kind of weird to think about it now. I was actually on the phone when she actually got out of the coma. She was breathing as normal as I'm talking to a person breathing. On that phone call, all she utters is "Manti." I'm back at home at the time for summer break. And she utters "Manti." So I'm sitting there … like, by the way, hello, And she says "Manti, Manti" in a faint voice. That's when she wakes up. It happened about two, three, four days after I got home (in mid-May).
JEREMY SCHAAP: Now she's out of the coma and you guys just resume again.
MANTI TE'O: Obviously, our relationship has gone to another level where I'm just exclusive to her.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Why?
MANTI TE'O: Because I wanted to. When she got into an accident, I was like, OK, this is who I want to be with.
JEREMY SCHAAP: How did you become so attached to someone just from these kinds of communications.?
MANTI TE'O: Lennay was Polynesian. She wasn't Mormon. She was Christian. So she understood my background. I understood her background, she understood my background. I understood her values, she understood my values. So there is a sense of understanding between us.
JEREMY SCHAAP: It was like you already knew each other?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, it was like we already knew each other. She knew what I expected of her, and I knew what she expected of me. That's how our conversation carried. There was a spiritual aspect of our relationship that pushed us to the next level.
JEREMY SCHAAP: How often would you communicate after she got out of the coma?
MANTI TE'O: Every day.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Every day?
MANTI TE'O: Every day. I slept on the phone with her every night.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Explain what you mean by slept on the phone?
MANTI TE'O: I'd be on the phone. And she had complications from the accident and, she said the only thing that could help her sleep was if I was on the phone. So I would be on the phone, and I'd have the phone on the whole night.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What did you know about her? I don't want this to sound prurient. But physically, what kind of picture did you have of her in your head? Did you see a picture online?
MANTI TE'O: Yes, the picture that they sent me. The pictures that I saw on their Twitter, and the original Facebook that they had, that is the picture that I saw.
MANTI TE'O: Attractive girl?
MANTI TE'O: Very.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Did she sound this way to emotionally connect with you?
MANTI TE'O: Yes.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Now looking back at it, can you see how you were manipulated?
MANTI TE'O: To be honest -- to be honest with you, I thought it was natural. It seemed natural. It seemed like, even though I just met her, she knew a lot about me already. No red flags popped up. Initially when I started to talk to her, obviously, I didn't see her yet, so I asked other people who knew of her and who had history with her, "Is this girl real?" And all of them said, "Yeah, she's real." So that kind of gave me confidence, that, yeah, I'm fine.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Who are these people that you reached out to?
MANTI TE'O: I reached out to my cousin and asked him.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Your cousin who?
MANTI TE'O: Shiloah, my first cousin. I asked him do you know this girl Lennay? And he said, "Yeah, I know this girl Lennay." And I said, "Is she real?" And he said, "Oh, yeah, she's real, bro, she's real."
JEREMY SCHAAP: He knew her?
MANTI TE'O: I guess he was in the same situation that I was in. He just didn't talk to her.
JEREMY SCHAAP: He was duped, as well?
MANTI TE'O: I talked to a former Oregon State quarterback who used to talk to her, as well. Who used to talk to her, as well.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Who was that.?
MANTI TE'O: Lyle Moevao. I asked him, and I still have the messages from him. "Hey, do you know who this Lennay girl is." He said "Yeah. I know her." He was like: "What's up?" I said, "We're just talking." He said, "I know her. She's real, bro. She's kind of weird. But she's real."
JEREMY SCHAAP: Did they indicate they'd ever met her?
MANTI TE'O: I didn't ask that.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Yeah, why would you?
MANTI TE'O: I assumed that, you know, if she's real, then that means she's real.
JEREMY SCHAAP: I don't want to sound like I'm prying, of course, the whole thing is prying. But how would you -- had you had girlfriends before? Serious girlfriends? Serious romantic relationships before this?
MANTI TE'O: Yes.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So here's somebody you've decided to commit to exclusively, and there's no physical contact?
MANTI TE'O: Nope.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What was so appealing about this relationship that you didn't need that?
MANTI TE'O: It was the spiritual aspect that took over. The spiritual aspect -- where in my past relationships, spirituality wasn't a big thing. It was something, but it wasn't in the forefront. She would always tell me that. "Manti, the only man I love more than you is -- well, two men, is God and my dad: I'll never put you in front of God." She would say stuff like that, and, we'd say prayers at night before we'd go to sleep. Then when we'd wake up in the morning, obviously, because I was on the phone, she'd say another prayer. She would always tell me to be humble. For me, that's what drew me in.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What about Skype-ing?
MANTI TE'O: I tried. I often asked to FaceTime, and she'd come on and, on my side, it would be a black screen. I'd be like, "I can't see...
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